Bayes' Theorem as a Tool for Better Administration of Employee Discretion


  • Mirko Pečarič Faculty of Administration, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Keywords: discretion, administrative discretion, employee discretion, Bayes' theorem


This paper presents a new form of discretion that deals with subliminal (personal) preferences, which are present in discretionary decision-making (where the mental, cognitive functions of public servants, mixed with their character and "dressed" with sophistic, logically well-explained and legally allowed reasons are present). This paper presents employee discretion that could be a denominator of the public employees' will to do or not to do something, to give lesser or greater weight to something. The power to choose is hence not only possible in legal frameworks but also outside of them. So far, informal power has been viewed in the law as the illegal one, although there are many informal, especially personal elements involved in the legal decision-making that are never brought to light. This paper offers a promising approach to how decisions can be similar in similar matters, despite their differences in personal backgrounds, cognitive capabilities or emotional variances. This can be done if Bayes’ theorem is used. Probability can here be established based on how much we believe something after we have seen the evidence; this depends not only on what the evidence shows but also on our pre-existing preferences (pre-investigation, prior probability or just a prior) or weights that affect our view on evidence or how much we believed in the evidence from the start. By assessing priors, decision-makers can become more comfortable with probability and uncertainty, and at the same time, the "echo chambers" of unfounded claims can be avoided. This way, subjective preferences could be known to others, while the principles of equality and equity could be raised to a higher level. Further development of employee discretion is based on the same grounds as this type of discretion – on our personal (in)actions.